Tuesday, April 3, 2012

"If You Lose the Power to Laugh, You Lose the Power to Think." -- Clarence Darrow

Dun dun DUNNNNNN!!!! Oooh, dramatic intro music! And gee, what a coincidence! It started with today's letter! D! Ah, brings back memories of report cards of long ago...

So, the Easter short movie we filmed is in the can, and the Lazarus beard is officially trimmed off again. I watched a near-final version of it today, and it's solid. It ain't gonna win no Academy Award nominations or anything, but it certainly has its merits. Not bad for our first project... Next time... next time I'll be more ready.

But on to today's letter.... looking over my lists, I see I have a lot of ground to cover again tonight.

Favorite Movies (D):

Duck Soup (1933): Ah, yes, the great Marx Brother's classic. Today it is widely considered to be their best movie, but at the time, it did so poorly in the theaters that Paramount terminated its contract with the Marx Brothers, allowing MGM to swoop in and sign them, where they produced many other great films. Ah, well, live and learn, eh? Anyway, so many memorable scenes, many strung one right after the other. I watch this one many times per year, especially when I need a good laugh to cheer me up.

The Dresser (1983): This is another rare film with two lead actors both getting a Best Actor nomination. The best short synopsis of this film that I've found is on IMDB: "An effeminate personal assistant of a deteriorating veteran stage actor struggles to get him through a difficult performance of King Lear." Well, yes, that summarizes it nicely, but I doubt that description does anything to make you want to rush out and see it, like you should. Tom Courtenay was nominated for his role as the assistant - a role which he also received a Tony nomination for when he played the part on Broadway - and is terrific... but Albert Finney's performance as "Sir", the aged stage actor mentally disintegrating in the midst of an amazing performance of King Lear, is like nothing I've ever seen. Really, I could go on and on about it, but I have lots o' ground to cover. If you love great film acting and/or great stage acting, you really need to track down The Dresser and watch it.

Favorite Actors/Actresses (D):

Benicio del Toro: This is another case of bridging categories here. On the one hand, I love Benicio in just about everything of his I've seen. Every time he's on screen, you can't take your eyes off of him. He definitely has a place on my Favorite Actors list. But I would be remiss if I didn't highlight his performance in 21 Grams. If you haven't seen this film, you should consider adding it to your List of Movies That Will Rip My Heart Out and Throw It In a Running Blender. You need to be made of steel to watch this movie, but if you enjoy feasting on amazing, world-class acting, this one will leave you feeling like a glutton. Naomi Watts is incredible. Sean Penn has never been better. But Benicio...

He plays an erstwhile petty criminal who has cleaned up his act several years before, given his life to Jesus (with a vengeance), and is trying his hardest to fly straight, and take as many troubled, lost souls with him. But an unfortunate string of bad luck devastates his life and sees all that he's clawed for crumble to ashes in his hands. How this meshes with the storylines of Penn and Watts you'll have to see yourself (if you haven't already), but heed my warning - this film is an unrelenting series of punches to the stomach.

If it just had amazing Oscar-nominated acting, it would be one thing. But the way the movie is edited takes it to a whole new level. It is told in jumps and pieces, mixing scenes from all over the movie, like drops of rain falling on a dry sidewalk, until by the end of the film, the sidewalk is covered, the story has been told in full, and you've pieced it all together. How the film-makers accomplished this, I have no idea. It is ambitious in the extreme. But thoroughly successful. Incredibly impressive.

I guess I should have saved all that about the film for "T Day", when I revisit it... but the point is, Benicio is just incredible. I'll talk more about Naomi Watts when I get to "W Day"...

He was also terrific in Snatch, Traffic, and the Usual Suspects.

[Honorable Mentions: Bette Davis]

Favorite Performances (D):

Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean 1: Oh, come on... don't roll your eyes. When the first Pirates movie came out, it seemed universally agreed that Depp's portrayal of Captain Jack was rich, solid, fun and thoroughly memorable. I certainly agree. Man, there were so many points in that movie, while I watched it the first time with a big goofy smile on my face, where I said, "Oh, man, I wish I'd written that scene!" Such an incredible script. Of course, as with the Matrix films, the first was incredible (dare I say "ground-breaking"?), but the sequels leave quite a bit to be desired. Too much of a good thing, sorry Johnny. But the first film? Epic, incredible, near-perfect. What a ride, and what an acting performance. Also loved Geoffrey Rush as Captain Barbossa.

[Honorable Mentions: Robert DeNiro in Analyze This]

Shifting gears here, let's hit music...

Favorite Bands (D):

Depeche Mode: If there was one band that stands the tallest in my formative years growing up, it would be Depeche Mode. My best friend Jason introduced me to them back in the early eighties, and I became intimately familiar with all of their work, from Speak & Spell (1981) through Violator (1990). In the early days of music sharing (Napster, Kazaa), I spent countless hours scouring the servers, looking for rare remixes, imports, B-sides, audio interviews, anything I could find. (Of course, I've since deleted them all, since I didn't get them legally - I buy all my music legally now! Whew, glad I added that!) Way, way too many songs to ever make a reasonable Favorites list, but the list would include: But Not Tonight, Tora Tora Tora, Clean, Get Right With Me, Stories of Old, Never Let Me Down Again, Stripped and many many others... Not sure what it was/is about them that clicks with me so, but they do.

Favorite Songs (D):

Dare You To Move by Switchfoot

[Honorable Mentions: Domino, by Genesis
Down To My Last, Alter Bridge
Drive In Drive Out, by the Dave Matthews Band]

Favorite Comics (D):

Dilbert (by Scott Adams): When a strip is as poorly drawn as Dilbert is, it has to make up for it in some other way. In this case, it is terrific absurd humor, smart writing, and memorable oddball characters. This strip has an abundance of all three. As with most things, the early work is better. Still, Dilbert easily qualifies as a Favorite of mine.

OK, enough! Let me wrap this up, so I can go get some actual work done, lol...

Odds & Ends (D):
Favorite Games: Descent (1995) (Countless vertigo-inducing hours spent careening through the levels. The Thief Bot in Descent 2 killed the series for me.)
Favorite Book Characters: Dogman (First Law Series & The Heroes, by J. Abercrombie), Druss the Legend (Featured in many titles by David Gemmell), Dienekes (Gates of Fire by Steven Pressfield)
Favorite Movie Characters: Mr. Darcy and Lady Catherine DeBurgh (Pride & Prejudice (BBC 1995))

OK, that's enough for today, methinks. Tune in tomorrow for E!

Adios for now,

Dave the Distractable, Diffuse and Dumbfounded


logankstewart said...

When 21 Grams came out, I was a high schooler. The movie looked great and promised to be something amazing. It had a limited release, if I remember correctly, and the closest theater to my house as 120 miles away. So, me and a few pals hopped in the car and drove to the Big City to watch the film. The performances were stellar, and the plot itself masterful. What a great movie.

Anonymous said...

Heroes arrived to the library today (my right brain won the arm wrestling match - considering my brain is almost equally divided, it's always a nail-bighter).

My son, David, loved Calvin and Hobbs, Coldplay, Colbert, and gaming. And at times, was a Chucklehead :)

I love excellent writing, but the inane, cheap sexual references get old really quick, so I'll have to pass on that show.

Bill Murray is hilarious! What About Bob is also a good one. Do you know he has a home in Valley Center? He occasionally shops at the Home Depot.

Grosse Point blank was awesome.


Mel said...

Benecio del Toro is one of my all-time favorite actors. I even loved him in "Excess Baggage". And I'm in complete agreement with your analysis of Depp. Brilliant. I haven't seen either of the movies you mentioned, so I'll have to check them out. Great post, again!

David Wagner said...

Logan: Man, driving 120 to see a movie? That's serious commitment. Plus, a looong way to drive just to get punched in the stomach for two hours...

Beth: Hope you like Heroes enough to make it worth your time. Not only do I know Bill Murray lives in Valley Center, but we've washed his rugs at our rug shop before... yep, I've seen a famous person's rugs, yep, I'm cool like that. Grosse Pointe Blank is, in fact, awesome... see? Not all of my recommendations are weak!

Mel: I'll have to check out Excess Baggage, thanks for the hint...

logankstewart said...

@Dave: Small wonder I chose to uproot myself and travel out of the deep rural town of Bremen. Sadly, I miss a lot of things about country life, which is why we're aiming to sell our house this summer and move out closer to the sticks. That said, yeah, I've grown up with the mindset that driving a fair distance to have some mass entertainment is a norm.

Anonymous said...

Did you have to sign a rug-confidentiality clause promising not to divulge the style and color of his area rugs and not take electronic photos/videos of the rug?

David Wagner said...

Nope, we just washed them, sent them back, and then all looked at the check with "William Murray" on it before it went into the bank, lol... it was a moment, then it was over.